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August 20, 2008

Maximizing SEO Returns with User Generated Content

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My wrists hurt. So does my brain. And I have no battery power left. But there’s no rest for the wicked so time to settle in for moderator Rebecca Lieb (ClickZ) and panelists Mehdi Maghsoodnia (CafePress), Benu Aggarwal (Milestone Internet Marketing) and Kurt Krake (Bazaarvoice).

Mehdi Maghsoodnia is first. CafePress has solely UGC content. Many statistics about CafePress. 6.5m users, 11m unique visits per month, 2000 shops opened on CafePress every day, 150m new products a month, 3m a week.

They’re very long tail. That’s what they’re trying to SEO. They don’t really have much in the way of branded terms. They don’t invest too deeply into head terms. The long tail, they have to just apply best practices and UGC. Most of their SEO investment in the last two years was building a custom search and retail experience.

There’s a conflict between SEO and Marketing to allow for a rich catalog. They allow for User created Folksonomy. The marketplace is “edited” by the community.

They use breadcrumbs, designer info, “share it” chicklets, and “see similar” box so that no page is an island without sacrificing conversions. They use templates to encourage self-SEO by the owner of each shop.

They look at the Top 100 keywords as well as by portfolio. They want to see which pages are appearing (check the engines), which terms are missing (hitwise, comscore). They do A/B testing as well.

Benu Aggarwal is up next. She’s going to focus on how you take your reviews and make them convert. She’s in the lodging industry and obviously reviews are important there.

They did a study on 1200 consumers who shop online at least four times per year spending more than $500 annually. They discovered that people read reviews and that reviews on third-party sites were considered more credible.

Impact of Customer Reviews on conversions: Increases every time. Some more than others.

How are search engines using Rating and UGC? You can refine by rating in Google Maps, Google Universal shows review counts, etc.

The presentation and organization of reviews encourages consumers to read. Information that is most important to customers should show up on top.

Wow, lots of info on this slide.

Make your reviews visible and display a rating or graphic. Display the total number of reviews, sort by type of reviews, etc.

Incentivize your reviews. Offer them a free drink or coupon. Make it easy for them to post reviews.

IMPORTANT: Define your web site taxonomy (theme) and define your architecture well (siloing)

Are you designed for higher conversion:
Unique selling points?
Important conversion elements are highlighted?
Check out experience is easy?
Search box that works well?
Etc.

Follow best practices. Breadcrumbs, shorter click path.

Make the user experience very pleasant.

Kurt Krake is next to show a case study and how his product works.

They were trying to determine the impact of reviews in three areas:

  • Natural search traffic
  • Conversion to sale
  • Average order value

Customers and searchers are the same people essentially. 77 percent of purchasers use review when shopping online and 76 percent of searchers are doing research.

Reviews are written in natural language. Misspellings happen. Long tail incorporates those. [He explains the long tail but you know what that is. Notes that you can't use Google Trends to see the long tail.]

Contrasts a Product-focused page with a Reviews-focused page. The latter facilitates reviews with rich keywords and optimization of title and meta tags, inbound link anchor text, actual body copy in UGC.

Leads to segmented traffic so that you can also capture the people looking specifically for reviews.

Worldwide query average is less than three words. Review pages receive longer queries on average (3-4 words) meaning they’re getting deeper into the tail. There isn’t much overlap on the searches.

Product review searches tend to include a retailer name. Review pages were more effective than product pages at capturing new customer searchers. So you’re getting people earlier in the research cycle.

They found higher conversion rates and higher average order values.

You can download the study free at http://bazaarvoice.com/whitepapers.html

The most effective incentive that he’s found was sending out emails to get customers aware of the ability to post a review and to get people to post one.

Rebecca asks about negative reviews.

Kurt: They “finely moderate” reviews. Okay then.
Benu: If it’s on your site and you built the tool, you could moderate the comments. If it’s on the third party site, 10 good reviews will overcome 2 bad reviews. Don’t worry about it. If it’s a problem that’s been fixed, you can show that.

Rebecca asks about mislabeled UGC. Save the whale shirts listed as Obama shirts.

Mehdi: They moderate when things become too personal. If the content itself becomes to controversial, that’s more difficult and they do it case by case.

Rebecca: What about requiring registration? Good idea, bad idea?

Kurt: Yes, you have to have some kind of registration and credibility. Also says that they don’t shy away from negative reviews. Negative reviews lend credibility.

Rebecca: what about third party sites and disgruntled attack reviews?

Benu: That’s why I say don’t worry about it. Customers can tell when it’s just vindictive. Yes, it will impact for a short time but so long as you have positive reviews, it’ll work out. Incentive your customers to post good reviews.

Audience comment: We find that people use negative reviews to find things that do or don’t apply to them about the hotel. Sophisticated shoppers use it to qualify products.

How do you make sure that people find the product pages if you have review pages?

Kurt: [Rambles a bit and totally doesn't answer the question] This is what we’ve found as the best solution.

How do you reach your customers?

Benu: We usually have their emails or you can ask them at check out, at the front desk and incentive them.
Kurt: [repeats that email is really the best way to get response and that contests got the most results.
Kurt’s coworker Scott: We’re trying badging (like Amazon’s Top Reviewers). Also when someone reviews one product, saying ‘you also purchased these, would you want to review them?’
Mehdi saves the session by saying that your best way to get feedback is to service the customer well and give them what they want. There’s too much emphasis on what you can get from the customer and you’re supposed to be making them happy. Thank you, Medhi!

Rebecca asks about other types of UGC like Amazon encouraging people to post their own pictures. Also about tagging.

Medhi: That definitely helps. We see that clearly in our site. The level of commitment and sense of ownership goes up when you allow them to get involved. Works better than incentives even.
Scott: you can do ask and answer, let the community answer the questions that other people have.
Rebecca: Why not imbed a YouTube video of some kid playing with it?
Menu: We tried that but it’s a low success rate. It’s more effective on YouTube itself. Getting people to post their videos and pictures works very well.

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